Is she qualified for those jobs? Consider this: She has more education under her belt than her husband and arguably more impressive government credentials than he had when he became deputy mayor in 1984, plus she’s got a legitimate work-your-way-up-by-your-bootstraps saga of a 25-year career at the RDA. Even master power player John Street calls scrutiny of Deb’s qualifications “sexist.”
“It bothers me that her husband’s status is ordinarily unceremoniously draped on her like a ball and chain,” Street says in an e-mail. “She is not alone. My wife has a law degree from an Ivy League law school, and when she got a job for which she was eminently qualified (not with the city), her work history and educational background were discounted, and the press routinely suggested it was because of her husband.”
But whether Deb Brady is qualified isn’t really the point. In Philly politics few people are where they are because of their résumés; in most cases they’re there because of the relationships they have — and Deb Brady has as close a relationship you can have with the most powerful politician in the city.
Take the Writ Services job, for example. In 1999, Deb had taken leave from the RDA, overwhelmed with her new duties as a congressman’s wife. But when the Bradys’ longtime buddy Mitchell Rubin (the now-charged-with-federal-obstruction husband of the now-indicted Ruth Arnao, who was the aide of the now-incarcerated Vince Fumo, one of Bob’s best buds) asked if she’d consider setting up office for the process-serving company he just started, she couldn’t say no. She never says no. So instead of relaxing at their shore house in Anglesea, Deb was at Writ Services every day — exactly what she didn’t want. She told Rubin, “I can only do this if I can have a flexible schedule.” So, for $100,000 a year, she works half the week at home and half in the office bookkeeping, doing payroll and billing, managing insurance and taxes.
As for the PHA appointment, Jonathan Saidel, who put Deb on the board when he was city controller, insists he didn’t do so because she was Bob Brady’s wife — then basically admits that’s exactly why he did it.
“She’d worked at the Redevelopment Authority, which is kind of a proving ground for the PHA. I knew she was someone who wasn’t going to lie to me. I didn’t just put her on there because she’s Brady’s wife. I put her on there because I knew if I asked her a question, she would answer me. There’s no angle with her…. I knew she wouldn’t be able to be politically pressured. Who’s going to put pressure on Bob Brady’s wife?”
Apparently, no one — even when she doesn’t turn up for work. In February, Deb came under fire in the Inquirer, which reported her absence from 53 meetings — more than half of all meetings held — since her appointment 11 years ago. From February 2009 until August 2010 alone, she’d missed 11 of 15 meetings. (Explains Bob: “She had back surgery. Her father died. She had to deal with issues with her mother.”)